Monday, January 19, 2009

Kyme Priory

click photo to enlarge
I've often wondered how different our view of English Gothic architecture would be if Henry VIII hadn't broken with Rome, passed the Act of Supremacy (1534) setting him at the head of the English church, and passed the two Acts (1536 and 1539) that suppressed the monasteries. Instead of cathedrals and parish churches (in the main) being the buildings that define and trace Gothic architecture, we'd also have large, complete, monasteries, abbeys and priories with their major churches and ancillary buildings added to the mix. And, these buildings would have been added to beyond the Gothic period, up to the present day perhaps, making them some of the most significant religious buildings in Britain.

However, there are things that we would have lost. The romantic, crumbling, Cistercian ruins of places such as Rievaulx Abbey and Fountain's Abbey would not have been there to inspire our painters and poets: William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" wouldn't have seen the light of day. Money that was channelled into other churches and cathedrals would have been used for monasteries, and the absence of the "quarries" that the redundant sites became, that provided building stone for nearby houses and farms would have resulted in quite different vernacular architecture in the areas surrounding these great churches. Furthermore, we wouldn't have seen fragments of these large buildings escaping destruction to provide the parish church for the place in which they were located, as happened with many, including Bolton Abbey and Kyme Priory, Lincolnshire (see today's photograph).

The present church of St Mary & All Saints at South Kyme is made from the west end of the south aisle and part of the south section of the nave of the priory. The rest of the Augustinian structure was swept away at the Dissolution. The building we see today was tidied up in 1888 by C. H. Fowler. The remains of architectural interest include the fine Norman south doorway, an original south porch, C14 windows, C15 glass fragments, some fascinating monuments, a headless Virgin in a niche above the porch entrance, and some very interesting pieces of Anglo-Saxon carving with work similar to the designs on Celtic and Irish illuminated manuscripts, suggesting a date of C7 or C8.

My photograph was taken on a late afternoon in January as the sun was heading for the horizon. The over-sized windows hint at the structure that gave birth to the village's present parish church, but Fowler's transformation pulls the design together very well, and the untrained eye might see it as a modest village church topped with a bell-cote because the funds wouldn't run to a tower. A black and white treatment seemed to suit the location and composition better than colour, and I increased the contrast with the digital equivalent of a red filter.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On